I decided to start my Olympic Dressage Team profile with Tina Konyot. She is, hands down, my favorite of all the Olympic team members. Why? Because she is awesome, that is why! If there is an answer to Stephen Colbert’s teasing that Dressage is for snobs, Tina is it! She grew up riding and it is in her blood. Her grandfather was the horse specialist for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus! He is in the Circus hall of fame as one of the greats of all time and his training skills are legendary. Her father followed in his foot steps and also did some circus work. Eventually he settled down with his own training facility, ensuring that Tina would grow up with horses all around.
Her father trained a lot of top riders, including Robert Dover. Tina didn’t want to be like other children of U.S. Dressage Dynasty, she wanted to earn her way. She decided to go off to Europe for 5 years to hone her skills and trained under some of the best riders of our time. In 1999 she came back state side and set about making a name for herself and developing her training business. For years she had her own barn going in CT and would only go to her parents in the winter, but apparently it has been leased out year round so she might be spending all year in Florida these days.
Tina has been a top rider since her retune to the United States, although it took people a while to notice. She came in 7th place during the 2000 Olympic selection trials on a horse named Justice and again was on the short list for the 2004 Olympic trails with a horse named Anna Kerenina. In fact, the only Olympic team she was not in serious contention for since her return to the US was the 2008 team. I can not think of many people who have successfully competed one Grand Prix horse to that level, let alone three. What really thrills me though is that she made the team this time, and she did it on Calecto V.
Tina Konyot and Calecto V have been competing together since 2007 and have gotten better and better. I was at Devon last year when she won the Freestyle in 2009 with a 72.60%. I know that she was over the moon excited after that win. She hadn’t expected it at all, she was just trying to get her young prospect some experience. After being there at Devon I can say without a doubt the best on that night. What is better is that since then the pair has only gotten better. Every time I see them Calecto V is strong and their connection is better. If you watch the videos of her from 2010 and her from this year you can see that Calecto’s gaits have gotten much bigger and they also just seem much more confident, which is amazing because they were great back in 2009!
Even cooler? Tina OWNS Calecto V!!! Very, very few top riders own their mounts. Most need sponsors or even syndicates to afford the horse, let along competition fees. I LOVE the fact that she owns her own top horse!
What I really love about Tina is her attitude. She is very funny, but she is also very serious. She is one of the most professional riders that I know, and also one of the most fun. One of the things that she is the best at is enjoying the ride. We could all learn from her that mistakes make us better, and that there is true joy in riding a great test. She is a true lifelong learner who is a joy to be around. I am sure that she will be smiling from ear to ear at the Olympic opening ceremonies having realized her dreams. I will be smiling right along with her because she has worked hard for everything that she has gotten.
Stephen Colbert thinks that dressage riders are boring and snooty, which is why I think he needs to meet Tina. If she was the face of dressage, I know it would help the sport out tremendously. She is beautiful, smart, funny, kind and an excellent rider, why is she not the spokesman for dressage right now?!?! I know that the US Dressage Team is not a lock for a medal this year. I also know that Tina and Calecto V have not been as consistent as they were back in 2010. All that being said, I know that when Tina and Calecto V have a good day they really are one of the best pairs in the world. I love watching them and hope you all enjoyed learning a little bit more about this amazing rider.